In Parliament last week I announced my intention to ask the Senate to initiate an inquiry into the flying fox problems we have in Singleton, Cessnock and other communities in the Hunter and other towns throughout the State.
I also spoke with the Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and the Shadow Minister Mark Butler who have offered support for the proposal. Further, I spoke with the Chair of the Senate Rural & Regional Affairs & Transport Committee and he advises he would welcome the reference.
I will now work with the Minister, Shadow Minister and other interested parties to develop appropriate terms of reference. .I told the House of Representatives that as part of an inquiry, I want the Committee to travel to Hunter to see firsthand the effect of the bat problem. You have to see it to believe it!
The Terms of Reference will need to respect the endangered species status of the bats and their contribution to the maintenance of our biodiversity. Senators can learn much from the scientists and regulators during hearings in Parliament House. But they’ll need to visit affected communities to fully appreciate the other side of the equation.
Surely in this 21st Century we have the wit to both protect our biodiversity while also protecting our local communities.
I’m hopeful a Senate inquiry can show us the way.
Some will say holding a committee inquiry is just putting the issue in the too hard basket. I disagree. Every other method has failed. The inquiry puts all the players in the same room for a genuine debate about all the issues.
Amongst other things, itwill allow Senators to change the “endangered species” status of the bats and press experts on human health concerns. It’s a more than worthwhile exercise.
The Parliamentary week was extended last week due to the Government’s determination to ram through its deal with the Greens on Senate reform.
The Prime Minister’s objective is to rid the Senate of what he would call irritating minor party senators. The extended week suggest a double dissolution is looking more likely – an extraordinary period in politics!
To contact my office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post to 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325. Or follow me on Facebook “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”.